A Permaculture designer uses and values renewable resources. The more we can do without depleting the resources of the planet, the better.
I would love to live in a small house sunk into the side of a hill, all made out of wood and straw bales. I can imagine a round structure with a turf roof, and large south facing widows. It would look like it had always been part of the hill. With the building skills we’ve gained over the last few years, I can imagine my husband and I building it ourselves out of renewable materials.
But that’s not what we’re doing. Instead, we are renovating a rather large, square, 1930s house with a 70s extension, doing our best to make it as energy efficient as we can. There are a lot of problems with this. This house was not built with energy saving in mind. You wouldn’t choose to start this project form here…
My husband grew up in this house, and him ‘coming home’ is part of the point of our project. So tearing the house down and starting again is not really an option. Instead, we have chosen to insulate the house to as high a standard as we possibly can – going to great lengths to get to passive house standard. Our aim is to not have to heat it under normal conditions, with only solar hot water and a wood burner to keep us warm in winter and heat our water.
We could choose to insulate with renewable materials like wool, flax and hemp, or wood fibre. But if we want to get the maximum amount of insulation without making walls a metre thick, those materials won’t do the job. Instead, we have gone for 16 cm of polystyrene as external wall insulation. Together with our triple glazed new windows, that should keep us pretty warm throughout the year.
Polystyrene is hardly renewable, but it is a stable, time tested material. Weighing up our options, we chose it as the best way to help us materially reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.
What materials are used in a Permaculture design will very much depend on the situation. If this wasn’t Alex’s family home, we would not have come to live here. And if we had bought a similar property in a different location, we may have made very different choices about renovating or completely rebuilding it. If we hadn’t decided to do the work ourselves, with very little contribution from tradesmen, our decisions would have been different again.
Different situations demand different solutions. That’s true for big issues like how to renovate a house, but also for small, everyday decisions like what we do in our spare time. There are many ways to reduce our consumption of non-renewable resources.
The same is true for Druidry. No two Druids believe exactly the same thing, or practise in exactly the same way. We each make our own path through the forest of life, our beliefs shaped by our life experiences, and our practice changing with our circumstances. Working on the common theme of reverence for Nature, we find great riches in that plurality.
Both Permaculture and Druidry value plurality and a wealth of difference. No solution works for everyone. Finding specific solutions for specific problems, and particular practices for particular places, may yet save the world we know and love.